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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

Snitch

By
John Mulderig
Source: Catholic News Service


Dwayne Johnson and Melina Kanakaredes star in a scene from the movie "Snitch."
How should society balance the government's need to combat drug use—and its attendant evils—against the right of a citizen to be judged and punished according to the individual circumstances of his or her case?

If the fact-based film "Snitch" (Summit) is any evidence, the current use of mandatory sentences as a weapon in narcotics cases has those two competing interests thoroughly off-kilter.

Director and co-writer (with Justin Haythe) Ric Roman Waugh invites us to sympathize with the fate of naive suburban teen Jason Collins (Rafi Gavron). After he foolishly agrees to accept delivery of a shipment of illegal pills on behalf of a friend, Jason is promptly busted and faces a compulsory 10 years behind bars.

The only path to a lesser doom is to testify successfully against others, something Jason's so-called pal is already doing to him. But, since Jason has no real involvement in the world of drugs, he can only obtain mercy by entrapping people. Despite encouragement from his lawyer to pursue this option, with admirable fortitude, Jason refuses.

Jason's divorced and estranged father, John (Dwayne Johnson), however, is not ready to give in so easily. Guilt-ridden over his neglect of the lad, John struggles to come up with a solution to Jason's dilemma.

John's persistence eventually convinces Joanne Keeghan (Susan Sarandon), the federal attorney prosecuting Jason's case, to make a deal with him: If John can infiltrate a local narcotics cartel and garner sufficient evidence to convict its boss, a petty hood named Malik (Michael K. Williams), she'll reduce Jason's time.

John has already been given an introduction to Malik by one of the employees of his successful trucking business, ex-con Daniel James (Jon Bernthal).

Daniel's situation is almost as poignant as Jason's: Despite his past, he's a dedicated husband and father determined to make a fresh start through honest work. But, with Jason's prospects worsening rapidly—he's repeatedly beaten by his tougher fellow inmates—John successfully wears Daniel down, convincing him to revisit his former life long enough to make the connection with Malik.

John then uses his fleet of vehicles as a lure, pointing out to Malik the advantages they would offer in transporting large cargoes of illicit goods.

Waugh enhances the action that follows with continued human drama and social commentary. The latter element gives rise to some clunky dialogue, especially from Joanne. Yet the overall result is both suspenseful and morally rich.

The damaging effects of divorce, the ethical and physical courage displayed, respectively, by Jason and John, the moving spirit of reconciliation and mutual forgiveness between father and son—all add heft to what might otherwise have been an easily dismissed series of shootouts and car chases.

The film contains much stylized and some graphic violence, including gunplay and a beating, mature themes, about a half-dozen uses of profanity and considerable crude and crass language. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III—adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13—parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.

*****
John Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service.





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James: This James is the brother of John the Evangelist. The two were called by Jesus as they worked with their father in a fishing boat on the Sea of Galilee. Jesus had already called another pair of brothers from a similar occupation: Peter and Andrew. “He walked along a little farther and saw James, the son of Zebedee, and his brother John. They too were in a boat mending their nets. Then he called them. So they left their father Zebedee in the boat along with the hired men and followed him” (Mark 1:19-20). 
<p>James was one of the favored three who had the privilege of witnessing the Transfiguration, the raising to life of the daughter of Jairus and the agony in Gethsemani. </p><p>Two incidents in the Gospels describe the temperament of this man and his brother. St. Matthew tells that their mother came (Mark says it was the brothers themselves) to ask that they have the seats of honor (one on the right, one on the left of Jesus) in the kingdom. “Jesus said in reply, ‘You do not know what you are asking. Can you drink the cup that I am going to drink?’ They said to him, ‘We can’” (Matthew 20:22). Jesus then told them they would indeed drink the cup and share his baptism of pain and death, but that sitting at his right hand or left was not his to give—it “is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father” (Matthew 20:23b). It remained to be seen how long it would take to realize the implications of their confident “We can!” </p><p>The other disciples became indignant at the ambition of James and John. Then Jesus taught them all the lesson of humble service: The purpose of authority is to serve. They are not to impose their will on others, or lord it over them. This is the position of Jesus himself. He was the servant of all; the service imposed on him was the supreme sacrifice of his own life. </p><p>On another occasion, James and John gave evidence that the nickname Jesus gave them—“sons of thunder”—was an apt one. The Samaritans would not welcome Jesus because he was on his way to hated Jerusalem. “When the disciples James and John saw this they asked, ‘Lord, do you want us to call down fire from heaven to consume them?’ Jesus turned and rebuked them...” (Luke 9:54-55). </p><p>James was apparently the first of the apostles to be martyred. “About that time King Herod laid hands upon some members of the church to harm them. He had James, the brother of John, killed by the sword, and when he saw that this was pleasing to the Jews he proceeded to arrest Peter also” (Acts 12:1-3a). </p><p>This James, sometimes called James the Greater, is not to be confused with James the Lesser (May 3) or with the author of the Letter of James and the leader of the Jerusalem community.</p> American Catholic Blog Walk the talk. Show, don’t tell. Values are caught, not taught—all variations of one theme: A good example is essential for good parenting.

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